The nuclear region of M51 imaged with the HST planetary camera

Carl J. Grillmair, S. M. Faber, Tod R. Lauer, J. Jeff Hester, C. Roger Lynds, Earl J. O'Neil, Paul Scowen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


We present high-resolution, broad- and narrow-band, pre-refurbishment images of the central region of M51 taken with the Planetary Camera of the Hubble Space Telescope. The V-band images show a rather chaotic distribution of dust lanes, though some are oriented radially, roughly aligned with the major axis of the bar, and may be transporting gas to the AGN in the nucleus. The dust lane obscuring the nucleus of the galaxy, which was previously thought to be an edge-on accretion disk feeding the AGN, is not centered on the nucleus. It is unlikely that this is a stable configuration, suggesting that the material has only recently entered the nuclear region. The nucleus is contained within a cluster of stars having a total luminosity of order 5 × 107 L. Fitting a King model to the least obscured portions of the cluster yields a maximum core radius of 14 pc. The morphology apparent in the forbidden-line images of the extra-nuclear cloud is consistent with a narrow jet striking and scattering off the boundary of a relatively dense cocoon of gas in the disk of the galaxy. The emission-line regions are concentrated along the inner borders of dust filaments, supporting the view that the nuclear jet is ramming into and stirring up the ISM of the disk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-230
Number of pages6
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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